ISLAMABAD: At the 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation, Pakistan cautioned global leaders to come up with practical solutions to help developing and least developing countries facing balance-of-payments (BoP) crisis and looming food security threats.
The WTO event, which concluded in Geneva, took up several important pieces of legislation. Minister for Commerce Naveed Qamar was heading Pakistan’s delegation to the meeting.
An official announcement from the Ministry of Commerce said that the lack of implementation of mandates from Ministerial Conferences, a dysfunctional dispute settlement body, a tendency to ignore the rules-based system and unilateral actions of members were highlighted during the meeting as some of the major challenges confronting the system.
Mr Qamar underscored Pakistan’s commitment to the system and called for a focus on issues that would help us build back from the pandemic and prepare for the future, such as finding solutions to challenges posed by the intellectual property system, lack of technology transfer to developing countries, and access to policy tools to augment production.
He further emphasised the need to uphold the fundamental principles enshrined in the Marrakesh Agreement, such as consensus-based decision making and special and differential treatment, to achieve the objectives of economic growth and sustainable development, raising standards of living and generating employment.
During the conference, Pakistan’s delegation participated actively in all major areas of negotiation to achieve its main interests.
On the issue of the WTO’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Pakistan played a central role in leading a coalition of several members and successfully negotiated a Ministerial Declaration on response to the coronavirus and preparedness for future pandemics.
This document clearly recalls members’ commitments under the WTO, the challenges faced during the pandemic, lessons learnt, and a commitment to prepare for future emergencies by focusing on issues of food security, technology transfer, intellectual property, trade in services, and regulatory and international cooperation.
As a co-sponsor of the demand for a waiver on intellectual property rights to secure safe, equitable, and affordable vaccines, Pakistan successfully negotiated an outcome under the Covid-19 TRIPS decision that would help local manufacturers develop vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
Mr Naveed actively led the delegation in the negotiations on an Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies. The agreement calls for the implementation of UN SDG 14.6 to secure sustainable development by prohibiting harmful subsidies for fishing.
Simultaneously, it provides developing countries with the necessary special and differential treatment to assist fishing activities, particularly resource-poor artisanal and coastal fisheries.
In a session on the proposed reform of the WTO, the minister highlighted the existing imbalances in trade agreements that favoured developed countries, and called for restoring confidence in the organisation by restoring a developmental agenda and safeguarding the foundational principles of the organisation.
Published in Dawn,June 19th, 2022